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Jailed policeman to appeal sentence for attempting to arrest judge

Court to convene at special Friday evening sitting to hear arguments

Published 18/02/2016

Contempt proceedings were brought against the PSNI officer by Attorney General John Larkin QC.
Contempt proceedings were brought against the PSNI officer by Attorney General John Larkin QC.

A serving policeman jailed for trying to arrest one of Northern Ireland's most senior judges is to attempt to appeal his conviction to the UK's highest court.

Thomas Anthony Carlin has also instructed lawyers to seek bail as he seeks to overturn the three-month prison sentence imposed for his approach to Lord Justice Gillen.

His application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court will be dealt with at a specially arranged hearing in Belfast on Friday night.

On Wednesday the 43-year-old PSNI officer was found guilty of contempt of court in proceedings brought against him by the Attorney General.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan held that he had acted with premeditation and determination.

Sir Declan described him as a man driven by self-importance and attention seeking who "revelled in being the spotlight".

Following the verdict Mr Carlin was led from the Royal Courts of Justice in handcuffs to begin his jail term.

At that stage he was told that if he seeks to apologise after 28 days the rest of his sentence will be set aside.

But the case took a new twist today when it emerged that the policeman intends to mount an appeal.

Appearing again by video-link from Maghaberry Prison, he was at first only represented in court by a friend.

But with Attorney General John Larkin QC and Sir Declan both urging Mr Carlin to consider accepting professional legal advice for the first time, Belfast-based law firm Madden and Finucane were instructed to represent his interests.

The Lord Chief Justice, sitting with Mr Justice Horner, are expected to decide whether to grant leave to go before the Supreme Court based on the prospects of any appeal succeeding.

If they hold that Mr Carlin has an arguable case with a reasonable chance of ultimately winning, he is almost certain to be granted bail.

Due to time pressures and other judicial commitments, however, the application could not be dealt with on Thursday.

Sir Declan instead suggested convening the court again at 7pm on Friday.

Barrister Dessie Hutton, now representing Mr Carlin, acknowledged the offer as going "above and beyond the call of duty".

Until then his policeman client will remain in custody.

Mr Carlin's actions and outburst came at the end of a ruling in an ongoing house repossession case last month.

He had been representing himself in the legal battle with Santander bank over claims that he had failed to make payments on a £192,000 mortage for a property in Co Antrim.

At the end of that High Court hearing he got up and moved towards the bench, holding aloft what appeared to be a PSNI warrant card.

He claimed he was going to arrest Lord Justice Gillen, before security and court staff intervened.

Mr Carlin was arrested on suspicion of two counts of common assault, but subsequently released without charge.

The Police Ombudsman has also launched an investigation into the incident.

He faced allegations of having interrupted proceedings without justification, refused to resume his seat, approached the presiding judge, threatened to arrest him without lawful excuse and physically interfered with a court tipstaff.

Mr Carlin rejected offers of legal representation and declined to apologise for his actions.

During the contempt proceedings he repeatedly claimed he was being subjected to a malicious prosecution and demanded a jury decide his fate.

At one stage Sir Declan ordered around seven of his supporters to be ejected from the public gallery when the stood up to back Mr Carlin's contention that he was being denied a fair trial.

The Attorney General argued that he had acted with flagrant illegality by an unreasonable and inexcusable disruption of proceedings.

As the hearing continued he sought adjournments of up to 90 days and also demanded the right to cross-examine Lord Justice Gillen, who he claimed was "unlawfully at large".

Following all submissions the two-judge panel delivered a scathing assessment of the policeman's actions.

Sir Declan referred to aspects of his "self-importance and attention seeking", adding that inviting his supporters to stand up in court had been aimed at abusing the proceedings and gaining publicity.

"It is clear that throughout this process he has revelled in being in the spotlight," the Lord Chief Justice said.

"It also appears that he has been encouraged by others who have stayed in the background but used his foolish vanity for their own ends."

With no evidence to support Mr Carlin's claims that an offence had been committed, the court held that he had no lawful power of arrest.

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